2009 E Pluribus Unum WINNER

AVANCE - El Paso

“Poverty does not have to lead to educational failure.” Sanjay Mathur

An innovative early childhood and parenting education initiative hosted by 14 schools in the nation's fourth poorest city, AVANCE-El Paso is designed to help parents and their preschool children break the cycle of poverty through early childhood development, parenting education, adult literacy, and healthy marriage classes.

Although 94 percent of AVANCE children are economically disadvantaged, program graduates outscore their school district peers as a whole on standardized tests by 12 to 15 percentage points and have shown higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates.

AVANCE-El Paso currently serves 3,000 children and adults in child development, parenting, and intensive family literacy classes at an average annual cost per family of $2,500.

Launched in 1997, AVANCE-El Paso is an offshoot of the AVANCE program begun in San Antonio in 1973 that has been replicated in nine other Texas locations, southern New Mexico, and San Jose, California.

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Exceptional Immigrant
Integration Initiative

Recognizing that parents are the most important and most constant teachers that children will ever have, AVANCE focuses on parental education (parenting, adult literacy, English-language, and healthy marriage training) as a way of reaching children in their earliest, preschool years to improve their educational and life outcomes. Education begins well before a child's first day at school, and empowering parents with literacy, job, and parenting skills builds stronger families and has allowed AVANCE children, despite tremendous economic disadvantages, to outperform their peers on standardized school achievement tests.

AVANCE is remedying a gap in early education and parental involvement that schools lack the tools, focus, and time to fill.

AVANCE's parenting curriculum provides a multi-generational benefit because as parents are given the tools to become better parents, address low self-esteem and dependency, improve their connectivity to the community, and set life goals, they inevitably serve as better role models and improve their children's lives.

Built into AVANCE's model - and emblematic of its entrepreneurial nature - is a "ladder-up" philosophy that incorporates parents who graduate from the program into AVANCE operations, with some graduates going on to gain valuable work experience at AVANCE, and directing them to AmeriCorps, which provides a path for them to get a college education after doing public service.

About Sanjay Mathur,
Executive Director

Sanjay Mathur has been Executive Director of AVANCE-El Paso (Texas) since 1999. Prior to his work at AVANCE, he worked for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. Mathur is originally from Mumbai, India, where he was born to a Swiss mother and Indian father. He grew up in Houston, Texas after immigrating to the United States with his parents at the age of two, and became a US citizen in 1983. After graduating from high school the following year, he served for two years in the US Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He also served for over two years in the US Peace Corps in Mali, in the field of water and sanitation.

Mr. Mathur is proficient in Spanish, French, and Bambara, and speaks basic Hindi and German. Since becoming Executive Director of AVANCE- El Paso, he has increased the budget and the numbers of children and families impacted ten-fold over the past ten years.